Tis the season to give back

I am committed to developing the next generation of leaders. I also give generously to non-profits that I care about. This week, those two passions converged.

I hosted a “lunch and learn” with five women from Cisco. Jay Roberts, director operations sales, has been a strong supporter of Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT), like many leaders in technology companies. At the annual MCWT gala fundraiser in October, I donated a “lunch and learn” session. I offered to meet with four women over lunch to have an open discussion on women’s leadership issues. Jay bid it up until he had no more competition. He then went back to Cisco and recommended a group of women to participate.

The women who lunched with me all currently work in the sales division for this technology company. They have different backgrounds in terms of college experience, technology education, and family history. They shared their stories and challenges with me. I asked each of them what they wanted to get out of our two hours together. After all, they all had plenty of work to do back at the office.

They wanted to talk about: work life balance and making time for self; how to lead with assertiveness and compassion yet not mother staff; common mistakes women leaders make; and where best to focus their volunteer energy.

We talked about our upbringings, early career experiences and raising sons and daughters. This kind of open, honest forum allowed us to share and learn from one another.  It made my day to receive thank you notes from several of the women.

One of them commented on how I described my partnership with my husband of many years, “One of the last statements you said hit me the hardest.  It was about the mutual respect and admiration you and your husband have and his ability to make you laugh.  I think we sometimes take for granted our closest relationships, it was wonderful to hear you acknowledge it.” I’ll be the first to say that without the balance my husband gives me, I’d be a worse workaholic than I am and a very unhappy, cranky person! When we were raising our two daughters, there’s no question that our partnership and sharing of the home front responsibilities was critical.

Another thank you note commented on the value of sharing amongst these women who work for the same company. “Thank you for using your time with such openness and generosity.  I left our session feeling inspired and connected.  There is a strength that comes when women share experience and wisdom in the authentic way you did.  After spending most of my career trying to disguise myself as a quasi-man, sitting with you I was proud of all of the women at the table and excited to be amongst them.  Our individual journeys and their common threads were both comforting and strangely nostalgic.”

At the MCWT fundraising auction, I also purchased a “Frozen” poster autographed by the actors for my 3 year old granddaughter. Like most kids that age she loves that movie and all its characters. And when it came time to just make a monetary donation to the MCWT scholarship fund, we of course raised our auction paddle again. MCWT is committed to developing and encouraging women in technology. It was not until I got a thank you note from MCWT that I realized they have provided $90,000 in scholarships this year alone and over $800,000 since it was founded.  Money well spent!!

How are you giving back to causes you care about this holiday season?

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